Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Celibacy Over Sex - an Emerging Trend in Japan

In Japan an astonishing new trend is developing: young women there are are choosing not to have anything to do with men. No romance, no relationship, no sex, no nothing. Apparently this trend has become so common the Japanese media has named it "Celibacy Syndrome."

I understand why modern women may choose not to marry or have children. But no sex at all? Now that's extreme.

Full Story in August Marie Claire.
I discovered this issue in a fascinating story in the August issue of Marie Clare Magazine titled No Sex and the City written by Abigail Haworth. Haworth writes that young urban women in Japan choose to be celibate because they value their jobs and independence over the restrictive roles of wife and mother. Women have gained power in the workplace, but Japanese relationships remain traditional. Wives are expected to be subservient to their husbands and getting married is the kiss of death to a woman's career, as Japanese employers assume her husband and eventual children will become her priority.

Ugh. I agree that makes marriage and motherhood sound pretty unappealing. But why not at least have sex with the guys?

In the U.S, much has been written about the hook-up culture and how it can actually be empowering for young women by allowing them to focus their energy and resources on their careers and education without getting lost in a relationship (check out Hanna Rosin's controversial story for the Atlantic Monthly). But casual sex isn't a real option in Japan. Women who have sex outside of marriage are considered sluts and judged harshly.

So many Japanese women aren't socializing with men at all. Instead, writes Haworth, young women spend their free time with girlfriends - dining out and shopping - and lavishing their affection on pet rabbits. Seriously. The pet market in Japan is booming.

And Japanese men? They're not all that interested in getting it on either, because they've got their own problems.

"Men, too, feel burdened by such old-fashioned attitudes about gender roles. Amid the ongoing economic recession, many men feel that the pressure on them to be the main family provider is unrealistic. At the same time, the glaringly obvious answer— settling down with career women and sharing the burden—is not feasible because the corporate world is too rigid to allow both parents to work."

I'm all for female empowerment, but women shouldn't have to become sexless bunny-lovers to keep their jobs. The world is changing rapidly - especially for women - which is a good thing. But progress is uneven and bumpy, and it's going to take some places and institutions a while to catch up. Women deserve to be both employed and sexual!

As Japanese men and women negotiate these choppy waters, I hope they find ways to connect and appreciate each other. Because girlfriends rock and kittens are cute and cuddly, but neither is a real substitute for real human intimacy. 

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